Catalogs – Sending the Wrong Message with Direct Mail?

We live in an online world…so I was surprised that when I went our for my weekly checking of my mailbox (yes, weekly, like I said – online world), about 50 catalogs slipped out of the box to the ground…Ugh.

I don’t know a single person that is still ordering out of catalogs…e-commerce has pretty much replaced the notion of paging through a paper-based catalog. And catalogs are so static – with online catalogs and e-stores enabling retailers to make on-the-fly discounts, promotions, etc. And, of course, it is far easier to see which offers and products are selling, and see that information faster.

Add to the innate inefficiency of catalogs the current economic conditions and the extra costs of producing, printing and mailing these things becomes ridiculous.

And even further – the recent trend towards going green makes printed catalogs a drain on the environment – since most go directly to the recycling bin (if not the garbage can).  Retailers, in my opinion, will do more to show they are in line with their customers by reducing or eliminating the printed catalog.

My stuffed mailbox will appreciate it…

5 thoughts on “Catalogs – Sending the Wrong Message with Direct Mail?

  1. Although I agree with you and the points in your article, you are definitely showing your young age.

    The majority of the US population is over 35 and a big chunk of that is over 60. Think they shop online yet? Doubtful.

    Mark

  2. Martin, you obviously don’t live in my neighborhood… some of my neighbors still shop from catalogs, as they’re without computers and don’t get to the store much (they’re in their 80’s and have lived in their houses for 50+ years). Others don’t have internet access because of cultural or economic reasons. Goodness gracious, some of them don’t even have credit cards (gasp!) and pay by cash or check. All this takes place in a relatively affluent section of Silicon Valley, in the shadow of the tech industry’s high-rises.
    Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s easy to forget that for every person who has embraced the leading edge of the wave of technology, there are countless others who can’t, or won’t, catch that wave. I’m all for reducing catalogs, but at least entertain the notion that some of these retailers know their customers, and know that catalogs are the preferred way for them to buy.

  3. As a former sales and marketing professional that has worked in the retail industry for many years, I can’t begin to tell you how far off the mark you are with your comments. While I agree that catalogs can be annoying, I can say that catalog sales drove tens of millions in sales each year for many of my former employeers.

    As somebody who manages most of her life via the Internet, I’d personally perfer see them go, but there are still many throughout the country that look at catalogs as the preferred method in which to shop and buy.

  4. Martin-

    Thanks for the comment you left on my blog reacting to this post.

    I think I was hasty too, in glossing over the environmental impact of catalog industry. After reading about the staggering amount of waste created and thinking about the embodied energy of individual catalogs, my views are now closer to your original sentiment.

    Anyway, the issue is fully in the hands of the consumers. If we stop buying from catalogs their production will cease. Although I don’t see the former happening anytime soon, every bit of attention called to the issue only helps. So continue doing what you can to keep it top of mind for your readers. But do you think there’s a way to kill just the print catalogs I don’t like?

  5. I have visited your website or rather your blog and admit that you have some very good advices, which I hope can become useful to me. Today where so many marketing tolls are available most likely the Internet offers the best choice. But then again which one of the marketing tools should one use? I think it all depends on the cost/benefit analysis and in order to establish this fact a lot of hard work is needed. Maybe a DM campaign is the right choice but one need to be aware of many pitfalls if not the campaign will not give you an acceptable ROI and just to calculate this is difficult, maybe today more complicated than ever. With the present turmoil on the financial markets there are very few reliable factors available, so the homework gets harder than just a few years ago. But as mentioned your observations and advices are useful.

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